Closing Sales at a Home Show

Home shows are a good place for generating leads. But how do you make the sale? February 13, 2013

There is a big four day consumer home show coming up next week with tens of thousands of visitors and it will be my third time at the same show. We make and sell a line of residential cabinetry (but not kitchens or baths). We have a great display, a great product, and we believe in our product. We believe our pricing is fair; it might even be a touch low for what we offer (our competitors offer melamine at a slightly lower price than our wood). Our staff members at the show are neat, clean, friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, and etc. The product is well received by a lot of the public. Lots of folks have owned and/or used this product in the past and love it.

The problem is, we are not sales people. We are craftsmen. We don't know how to ask for the sale and close. Many of our sales have been from prospects visiting our showroom and asking us how to place an order!

The product purchase does require some customer selection (which options they want) so it is not as easy as selling a set of pre-packaged knives on the show floor. Also, we need to visit the job site to adapt the product (slightly) and also determine what components can be pre-assembled at the shop and what must be done on install day. (Larger pieces sometimes don't fit around tight hallways.) This visit must come before the design and manufacturing step. We currently make this a part of the selling process.

Somewhere in the process we just are not getting the leads/appointments that we need from the show. My guess is that we just are not asking the right questions of the right folks. Or, we simply are not recognizing when folks want to buy and we are not asking for the close. I've read a number of sales/marketing books over the years, but none of them seem to have real examples of what to say. They all seem to talk in generalities only. I need something more concrete. Does anyone have some actual closing lines, or series of questions that they have used that work?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor G:
When you say "The problem is, we are not sales people" that is your problem exactly. I don't know if you are going be able to close at the show, does your competition? Basically sales is about control, inability to close is an inability to control the prospect. You need to be able to qualify who is interested. This should be pretty easy to do. Then it is about finding the emotional reason people want to buy your product (the reason is going to be consistent with most of your customers) and pushing that reason to create want and then close the deal. The key to the above is practice, and I would get your sales people together before the show and pair up and practice until they are silver tongued charming types like myself.

From contributor F:
Create a drawing for a free add-on with an order placed within 30 days. Make it something a customer would want that has real value. Ask the prospects if they are interested in entering a drawing for this item and take their information on a form and put it in a fishbowl. Anybody that doesn't want something for free will be harder to close as they may not be serious. Award the winner and if they say they aren't buying buy them a $100 dinner in town. Use the rest of the entries as serious follow up calls. Offer some kind of discount for closing at the show.

From contributor M:
Do not expect to leave that show with any contracts signed. In fact I would recommend that you do not spend too much time coddling prospective buyers. They are there to look around at the other offerings as well. Get them in your booth and try to have a solid ten minute presentation. Use a two minute video that explains your business and shows some of the more interesting aspects of your shop, then show an eight minute slide show. It will loop all day and will drive you crazy, but it sets a natural rhythm of capturing prospective clients.

I always acquired more leads from the other contractors and service providers at the shows than from the civilians that sign our follow up list. After the show, if thing go well, you will have a list of 100 or more solid leads. By the time a person listens to your pitch, looks at your portfolio, and signs the follow up list you know they are really interested. You can also get stuck talking to one person for five hours thinking you have a sure deal then have them walk over to the next booth and talk to them for five hours.

From contributor D:
This is how I would handle it if I were you. I would bring a schedule and try to schedule a home visit for everyone that you can. Don't spend the time telling them about making it around tight halls and inside small get in their home. Don't worry about signing contracts, worry about setting appointments. Even have a contest between your guys of who can set the most. Being a custom cabinet shop, it is impossible 99 times out of 100 to sell someone a cabinet without a home visit. The home visit really turns into your qualified lead, very qualified actually. Also, have Monday be the first day that you schedule for, don't make it a couple weeks or even a few days away. People tend to lose interest.

From contributor W:
I would give up the mindset of closing at the show. If it were to happen that would be the exception to the rule unless you are selling knives and they are walking out with them in hand. Setting your expectations on closing will skew the ability to make friends who have friends who have friends. A show is exposure - press the flesh and get the word out. If you receive emails or phone numbers and have ten who take the call and make an appointment leading to a few jobs you will have accomplished something. What you want most of all is for them to remember you when the time comes. Give them something you would want for yourself and not chuck in the trash after the show.

From contributor J:
ABC - Always Be Closing. Maybe you could try offering a ten percent show discount for anyone that ends up purchasing after their appointment. I wouldn't advertise this though as it seems desperate/gimmicky. Once you are in the home, have discussed their needs, and are talking money (and as long as it is at all feasible) I price the job on the spot. I ask the customer for about a half hour of alone time and do some calculating.

It helps that I know most materials pricing off the top of my head. I also know my shop rate so am really only estimating time. I come up with a number for materials and a number for labor. I gauge their reaction when shown these numbers. If the checkbook doesn't get whipped out I offer two things. First I explain that materials aren't marked up by me one penny (not at this point anyway). Then I offer to take off some labor money if they consider signing then - usually a 10-20% chunk. I am genuine in my initial numbers so do take a slight hit but a 15% reduced profit is better than no profit at all. Most people find this one two punch of savings too much to resist.

From contributor U:
This is a show, not a sales appointment. When I go to any type of show and I start hearing the sales pitch I am gone. I believe most people who attend shows go to gather information and see new products. When we have had booths in shows, and I would get a visitor who is really interested in my products, I would casually get out a referral form and ask them if they would like to schedule an in-home appointment. Some would simply say no, but usually we would acquire a few.

From contributor K:
I have found the shows do actually carry quite a percentage of our yearly sales. I will go to the shows until they come up with virtual kitchens and I am obsolete. I have never received a check at a show, but the leads generated are invaluable. Each person that approaches you with a set of plans from the big box store, or a drawing they threw together is about as good of a lead as you can get.

I bring my computer with me that contains estimating program. I collect their info, tell them to come back in five minutes, and then go over the quote. I give them the quote on letterhead that has all of my info. I've given out ten quotes at a show before. I follow up immediately after the show. That is where the closing takes place. I acquired five kitchens from the shows last year and they are more than paying for the booths.

I actually enjoy the shows. It gets us out of the shop for a few days. It's important to do your homework before you go to any show. Try to go to the show a year in advance and scope it out. In our area the cabinetmakers have cherry displays in various styles. We have paint and this sets us apart from the other guys, and people remember us when we call. It's also nice to have people with you at the shows. At times there are four of us in our booth - two granite guys and two cabinetmakers (we split the booth). Each of us can sell both products. Having extra people keeps you from talking to a person that may or may not be interested in your product while serious leads walk by.

ABC - absolutely, but you have to be subtle. Its best to not be pushy. Talk about the weather, sports, the show, anything. People respond more to casual conversation then a sales pitch that they get at every other booth. Let them lead the conversation. If they are interested and want more info, they'll ask. I will only pitch as a last ditch. Talk to the other vendors as well.

From contributor A:
It seems to me that since you have a showroom, you have a built-in close. I am not big on selling on price alone, but that said it costs money to ship the stuff back and forth.

For someone interested in a piece, I would simply tell them they can visit your showroom, or they can buy one from you at the show. Explain that it costs money to ship it back and re-install at the showroom. So in consideration of that, you are offering your showroom samples here on display, on a first-come, first-serve basis at a discount of $XXX.XX (whatever it costs you to do this - number of men, etc.). The minute you sell one, cover it over with see-through plastic and a big SOLD sign with their last name and a delivery date on it (which should be the next day so you don't have to unload it only to reload it).

The message will come across quickly to those visiting your booth. No pricing gimmick, just passing what you would save back to the customer. The important thing here is do not under any circumstance then sell it for this modified price back at your showroom.